Shotgun Seamstress

By David Krogh

Shotgun Seamstress is an anthology of eight different fanzines created by Osa Atoe. “The zine came out of the experience of being the only Black kid at the punk show. It was a cut and paste fanzine I started in 2006 when I lived in Portland, Oregon.” 

Atoe is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants to the East Coast of the US in the 1970’s. She moved to Portland by herself in 2001, living here until 2008. Having learned to play the violin at a young age, she developed a great interest in punk music. “Aside from playing music and writing, I was a columnist for ‘Maximum Rock’n’Roll’ magazine. Later I also booked shows for touring bands fronted by women, non-binary and LGBTQ people under the name ‘No More Fiction.’” 

During her time in Portland, Atoe played the violin in the all-girl punk band New Bloods with whom she toured through both North America and Europe. “I was probably making coffee then, but my career was never the center of my life; my jobs were to finance my punk life.”

Atoe said that she enjoyed her years in Portland, where she shared a house with several others, many whom were also band members and was thoroughly into Portland’s vibrant music scene. In addition to her music interests, being a strong advocate for women’s and LGBTQ rights, Atoe volunteered for events, many of which were fundraisers for local social justice organizations. 

Shotgun Seamstress (the book) was written over time between 2006 and 2015, first in Portland and later in New Orleans. The name Shotgun Seamstress came from how her mother described Atoe’s attempts at sewing; that is, a shotgun approach to sewing. This, Atoe felt, was also appropriate for her zines as none of her zine content was predetermined. 

The book itself (and the zines within) almost have the appearance of a scrapbook (which is how many zines are done). Contained within are segments of typing, clippings, photos, drawings and whatever else Atoe could paste into it to follow her themes. “Punk isn’t about longevity or technique-it’s about urgency and primal expression. Being in bands, making zines and organizing events helped me build the confidence to share my creative projects with others without worrying if they were good enough.”

Reading through Shotgun Seamstress was enlightening. It includes a lot of punk culture, Black music discussion and interviews with performers, both local and nationwide. All the contributions within were either provided by Atoe, music colleagues or through the zine culture she had networked with. 

The anthology offers insight into Black issues and concerns of the day, but still has a primary focus on Black music culture. “In predominantly white movements, including the punk scene and activist circles, there is a total lack of understanding about what real Black people (and specifically Black women) have to do to make it through the day.” That is one of the most prominent points Atoe’s zines are attempting to illustrate.

An interview with Detroit musician Mick Collins from the bands the Dirtbombs and the Gories is one example of interesting discussion about issues involving Black music and (in this case) cost of living. From Issue 3 (in 2009), Mick Collins suggests that hip hop music in Detroit killed punk music and overall set Black music back 20 years. Also discussed was the cost of living and the fact that both Portland and Detroit were still affordable at that time. (Atoe verified that this was before the dramatic housing market increases in the 20-teens due to gentrification and in-migration housing demands within Portland.)

After moving to New Orleans and working in music for several more years, she took a clay modeling class in 2013. Then she continued with clay classes for two more years. She had become hooked by clay artistry. “I still did bands for a while but phased out of that as pottery took over my need for enjoyment. Working with clay helps me to enjoy the ability to create new projects without controversy.” 

Atoe currently lives in Sarasota, FL and has her own clay studio. She still does the occasional zine (which she sells at the Brown Recluse Zine Distro, and has a blog which discusses both her zines and book at However, her primary work now-a-days is in clay. You can visit her clay artistry website at and also watch her at work on YouTube.

Shotgun Seamstress is published by Soft Skull Press ( and is available or by order at most independent booksellers, as well as online through Powell’s Books, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Osa Atoe photo by Soft Skull Press.

Shotgun Seamstress

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